Saturday, 23 January 2010
As a true example of new-urbanist neighbourhood design, East Perth will always be at the top of any list of such places. Previously a run-down neighbourhood 2km east of the city centre, a redevelopment authority was set up (removing planning powers from the City of Perth) to transform the area into a mixed-use mecca that ticks all of the new urbanist design boxes. It has been done well - a range of different types of buildings of all ages have been retained, the street system updated and new buildings constructed to make for a diverse and interesting area.
The best feature of East Perth is Claisebrook Cove - a man-made cove following the path of a long-buried natural waterway. Around the Cove you will find terrace housing, a tavern, cafés, an art gallery, apartments and a hotel.
However, a walk around the area will soon reveal that it is a little too quiet. There seems to be little life on the streets. The cafés, although busy, are not bustling, the parks are enjoyed by few people. Nearby is a TAFE, train station, CAT bus, shops, offices, apartments, warehouses - in fact anything that fits within a definition of a mixed use neighbourhood. The place scores 77/100 on walkscore.com, a respectable figure. So it should be all accounts be busier.
East Perth has had at least 15 years to mature, so it is not on account of infancy. My guess is that density is the issue - and that the area is separated from a larger catchment area by a freeway to the north, river to the east and large sporting fields to the south. Jane Jacobs was known to advocate much higher residential densities than was being developed in New York in the 1950s, so perhaps we are underachieving in developing the kind of densities required to create active places.